The dawning of mankind

[At] some point in history, human beings realise that they will all die. To small bands of roaming hunters this was not self-evident; it was possible to view death as something unlucky that happened to other people.

Diane Purkiss

Optimism

Flowers, Ida thought scornfully; that wasn’t life. Life was sunlight on brass bedposts, Ruby port, the leap of the heart when the outsider you have backed passes the post and the colours go bobbing up… What was the sense of dying if it made you babble of flowers? … She took life with deadly seriousness: she was prepared to cause any amount of unhappiness to anyone in order to defend the only thing she believed in. To lose your lover—’broken hearts,’ she would say, ‘always mend,’ to be maimed or blinded—’lucky,’ she’d tell you, ‘to be alive at all.’ There was something dangerous and remorseless in her optimism, whether she was laughing in Henekey’s or weeping at a funeral or a marriage.

— Graham Greene, Brighton Rock

Good sketch of one of the main characters. I admire writers like Greene and Dickens, who can evoke a character with depth and contradictions in a single paragraph.

Western Psychogeography

The element that most clearly defines the western is the symbolic landscape in which it takes place and the influence this landscape has on the character and actions of the hero. This is, I think, why this particular formula has come to be known by a geographical term… [This] symbolic landscape is a field of action that centers on the point of encounter between civilization and wilderness, settled society and lawless openness.

— John G. Cawelti

Inconceivable, appalling

He said, ‘There was a man, a Frenchman, you wouldn’t know about him, my child, who had the same idea as you. He was a good man, a holy man, and he lived in sin all through his life, because he couldn’t bear the idea that any soul could suffer damnation.’ She listened with astonishment. He said, ‘This man decided that if any soul was going to be damned, he would be damned too. He never took the sacraments, he never married his wife in church. I don’t know, my child, but some people think he was—well, a saint. I think he died in what we are told is a mortal sin—I’m not sure: it was in the war: perhaps…’ He sighed and whistled, bending his old head. He said, ‘You can’t conceive, my child, nor can I or anyone the… appalling… strangeness of the mercy of God.’

— Graham Greene

Also, nested colon clauses.

Permission to skim

I do not bite my nails about the difficulties I meet with in my reading; after a charge or two, I give them over. Should I insist upon them, I should both lose myself and time; for I have an impatient understanding, that must be satisfied at first: what I do not discern at once is by persistence rendered more obscure.

– Montaigne

Hubris

Any problem can be solved using the materials in the room

— Edwin H. Land

Our Greatest Living Film Critic, X

August, 2019

Avengers: Endgame (2019)

Watched Avengers: Endgame (2019), in which Earth’s Mightiest Heroes travel back in time to get the Infinity Gems and undo Thanos’ dastardly deed. This is an inspired idea for a plot, because it lets them revisit the previous MCU movies and do a victory lap before closing out this chapter of the franchise. Everything in this movie was very predictable, and despite being good a lot of the time, it was never great. My favorite part was when Ant Man’s taco gets blown away by the ground effects of a spaceship landing, and then everybody makes fun of him, but then Hulk gives him two tacos. I almost cried. I’m glad I didn’t, because those tears would have turned into tears of rage when Thanos was able to break Cap’s shield with his sword. That is not possible. That is horse shit. This movie sucked, and I give it 3.25 juice pops out of a possible 5 juice pops.

Under the Silver Lake (2019)

I watched Under The Silver Lake (2019), a movie by David Robert Mitchell, starring Andrew Garfield as a man whose life is falling apart, who coincidentally happens to get drawn into a conspiracy involving hidden codes planted in media, nude assassins in bird masks, and the fate of Los Angeles billionaires. A thoroughly polarizing movie for critics. I initially found it plodding and insular, but at a certain point (right around when the Hobo King showed up) I looked up and realized I was really enjoying it. This movie is like the following movies in a blender: The Long Goodbye, Chinatown, Mulholland Drive, The Big Lebowski, and Pi. I’m not sure how anyone watched it and didn’t realize it was an absurdist comedy, and that the main character was delusional. There’s a scene where he’s trailing some suspects, and they rent a paddleboat, so he rents a paddleboat to keep following them. I give it 4 life masks out of a possible 5 life masks.

Avengement (2019)

Watched Avengement (2019). It’s a revenge fantasy movie, sort of a cross between Bronson and The Revenant, about a boxer set up to go to prison by a London gangster, who then puts a hit out on him. The boxer becomes the Goku of prison fighting, gets a grille, then breaks out to wreak his avengement (which unfortunately is a real word). The movie is told in flashbacks during a hostage situation in a pub, and is surprisingly enjoyable for what it is. The bar fight you know is going to happen happens, and it’s brutal. What parent would name one of their two male children Cain? Everything in England is on CC TV except the prisons, apparently? Ross O’Hennessy was great as the bent copper (blimey)! The fact that Cain did not brutally kill that bartender is pure chauvinism. I give it 3.5 curb stomps out of a possible 5 curb stomps.

Public Enemies (2009)

Watched Public Enemies (2009). This is probably Michael Mann’s most forgettable movie, a retelling of John Dillinger’s last days that was only slightly different than the one any serviceable director would have made. Some moments stand out, but they’re exceptions. Without neon or sodium lighting, it doesn’t feel right, and none of these actors are ugly enough, or career criminals enough to be his cast. Johnny Depp still just does an impression of a character rather than inhabiting it, and Christian Bale can’t do a Southern accent, god bless him. Herc from The Wire wears a toupee. There are two types of Mann movies: “I live and die by my own rules,” and “Can’t you see the old days are going away?”, and this one actually does a bad job at being both. The man running through the orchard? That’s Channing Tatum. The most disappointing thing of all is that the bullet noises are fake. I give it 3 phone books out of a possible 5 phone books.

Bloodsport (1988)

Watched Bloodsport (1988) a movie directed by nobody, about Commander Guile competing in the Street Fighter tournament. For this movie they actually filmed inside the Kowloon Walled City. There’s a middle eastern gentleman whose voice is clearly dubbed by a chain smoking Romanian garbage man, but only in one scene. Best part is when the janitor steals the gold tooth JCVD knocked out of the guy’s mouth. Strangest scene is the comedy foot chase. It’s also funny when Forest Whitaker doesn’t know how to use chopsticks. Evidently a lot of cocaine was being done right before the camera rolled? Even dogs don’t want to eat eel! I almost cried when Chong Li stole Ogre from Revenge of the Nerds’ Harley Davidson bandana from his broken body. I give it 2.5 pectoral flexes out of a possible 5 pectoral flexes.

Pokemon: Detective Pikachu (2019)

Watched Pokemon: Detective Pikachu (2019), a movie in which Pikachu has to help an orphan save the city. Pikachu is pretty cute with that detective hat on, and he has some funny lines. There were a couple neat effects sequences. Other than that, the movie kinda sucked. I don’t know enough Pokemon to care about most of it, and it’s definitely for kids. Why would you choose a non-cute pokemon to be your “partner”? There’s one that looks like a gross tree, and Psyduck is a liability. The actor playing the main character was fine. Bulbasaur was fine. Mr. Mime was fine. The ending made zero sense: felt like they must have changed it from something else. I give it 2.5 electric mice out of a possible 5 electric mice.

The conspiracy

Yes, there is a conspiracy, indeed there are a great number of conspiracies, all tripping each other up … the main thing that I learned about conspiracy theories is that conspiracy theorists actually believe in the conspiracy because that is more comforting. The truth of the world is that it is chaotic. The truth is, that it is not the Jewish banking conspiracy, or the grey aliens, or the twelve-foot reptiloids from another dimension that are in control, the truth is far more frightening; no-one is in control, the world is rudderless.

— Alan Moore

Quotidian

It would be a desirable and enviable existence just to earn a decent wage at a worthwhile job and spend all one’s leisure hours improving one’s aesthetic appreciation. There is so much to appreciate, and it is all available for peanuts. One can plausibly aspire to seeing, hearing and reading everything that matters.

Clive James

Would it? Is it? Can one?